b3.6

This week’s issue of Batman invites you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the origin story of Hank and Claire Clover.  Or as we’ve come to know them, Gotham and Gotham Girl (or G&GG if you’re writing an article).

b3.5

The story starts off with a couple and their young son walking down the street and taking a turn down a dark and foreboding alley.  Anyone that’s ever picked up a Batman comic, and even some of those who haven’t, know exactly where this is going.  But surprise!  This isn’t yet another Batman origin.  This is Hank’s turning point.  During this scene, I was reminded of an older Batman story where The Phantom Stranger takes Batman to a parallel world where the Waynes are still alive and gives him the cathartic opportunity to save them.  While the specific details between this and that older story are completely different, the endpoint is the same.  Batman inspires people to rise up and do good.  And…Batman’s quest is ultimately to make sure that no one ever has to suffer the loss that he did.  Saving stranger after stranger is in many ways a therapeutic exercise for him.  He can’t save his parents, but he can do it symbolically.

b3.7

Can anybody tell me why Batman is wearing his new uniform in a flashback scene?

I know the color scheme is different, but other than that, it’s the new design.

The opening may be nothing more than Batman stopping a mugging, but at the heart of who Batman is, this is the story that I think should always be told and is too often forgotten or brushed aside in order to tell city wide calamity stories.  Batman is, after all, just a street-level vigilante.  To him, saving one life is just as important as saving one hundred, one thousand, or even a million.  Everyone matters to Batman.  No matter how big or small.  The fact that King chose to focus on this is a huge bonus in my opinion, and definitely has me rooting for him.  Although, I did find it a little odd that the voice-over for this scene spent so much time talking about piss…  The line about breathing it in deeply and almost retching really got me.  But, I guess that just shows the strength of King’s words.  As they walked down that alley, I could almost feel the griminess upon my skin and the scent in the air.

b3.4

During the montage of G&GG’s life, we get this great shot of the two of them working out, mirroring a panel from Batman’s origin from Detective Comics #33 (1939).

As the story unfolds, we learn that all of this is being divulged to an in-disguise Bruce through G&GG’s parents.  (But wait, how did Bruce figure out their identities?  Remember…he’s Batman)  Not only are we shown that Batman is their inspiration, but that they are genuinely good/decent people.  I think both of these elements help create a strong level of empathy, fairly quickly, between us and the new duo.  But maybe I’m assuming too much about the readership.  I’m sure there are those who are merely attracted by Batman’s fancy toys and ability to pound people into submission, but I’d like to think that as fans of Batman, we are all inspired by him.  That’s not to say that we all go jumping out our windows on a nightly basis to fight crime, but he’s still a source of righteousness that I’d like to think we can all look up to.

I’m also assuming that we are all “good” people.  Which leads me to an interesting question.  Now, I’m about to get slightly off topic, but this is something I have always wondered.  What do criminals read/watch for entertainment?  Almost everything made is about heroes defeating villains.  Do criminals actually identify with the villains?  Are they always bummed out at the end of movies when their side loses?  Does an armed robber feel at all strange when they read a story where Batman pummels their proxy into the ground?  I know it’s not as simple as all that.  Obviously good and bad are points of view as much as why one commits a “bad” act.  But it’s still a question I often ponder.  But I digress (as usual).

For me, in any case, this whole scene really helped to endear them to me.  Which, will make it all the more heartbreaking when the inevitable tragedy occurs.  Come on…you know it’s going to happen.  I’m actually pretty impressed by how quickly King got me to do a 180.  After the first issue, I was like, “Who are these jerks trying to take Gotham from Batman?”  After the second, “Ok…these guys seem nice, but maybe it’s a trick…”  And now we are left with the realization that they really are good people.  That’s like a real surprise if you ask me.

b3.9

One of the other things that I really liked about this scene was the simple fact that Bruce was in-disguise.  And it wasn’t some ridiculous holographic mask either, but simple theatrical makeup and a false mustache.  Bruce is a master of disguise, and I don’t think this element gets utilized as often as it should.  So whenever it pops up, I love it.  It also exemplifies that Bruce will use whatever tool is necessary to get the job done.  And, at that, the proper tool.  Busting in there and intimidating info out of them as Batman would not have been as effective as simply questioning them as an FBI agent.  While I loved these elements, the biggest mistake in the entire book comes right out of this section as well.  King decided to name the FBI agent Matches Malone…  For real?  I know that Matches is one of the more commonly known aliases that Bruce uses, but he has dozens to chose from.  And Matches is his gangster alias.  The only thing that I can surmise is that King was using Matches to generate nostalgia.  If that’s the case, it didn’t work on me.  And I’m curious if it actually worked on anyone.  I get wanting to recognize Batman history, but don’t do it if it means you have to do it incorrectly.  Any reader that is aware of Matches knows he isn’t FBI and was probably bothered by the error, and those who don’t know him wouldn’t feel the nostalgia anyways.  So what was the point.  Seems to me it would have been far more prudent to have come up with a completely new identity rather than use a preexisting one and alienate fans for no reason.

Art is still being handled by David Finch, and I’m either getting more and more accustomed to his stuff with each passing issue and that’s why it’s looking better, or he really is upping his game.  I think it’s the later.  Stuff just looks more detailed to me than in the previous issues.  I look around and see brick work with crumbling mortar, debris strewn across the ground, foliage on trees, and all kinds of minutiae on the background scenery.

Spoiler

b3.10

  • How amazing is this?  I feel like I haven’t seen Psycho-Pirate in a decade.  And you know what I like about it even more?  No attempt was made to update his costume or change his name (which I admittedly always thought was a little peculiar).  Sometimes when dealing with an older property, I’ve occasionally felt that a writer would have a sense of shame when something was too comic-booky.  And that they would try and change it to make it more grounded in reality and less silly.  This time, I feel like the writer (Tom King) embraced the medium and everything that comes with it and simply said,  “This is what he is called…this is what he looks like….deal with it.”  And I love that!

Interesting Facts:

b3.2

  • Has anyone else noticed that the new Bat-Belt kinda resembles Nightwing’s old belt/yellow costume accents?
  • If you’ve been reading my stuff for awhile, it should be fairly clear that I am all for Batman handling street-level crime. Alan Grant was an expert, in my opinion, at highlighting this aspect of The Caped Crusader while simultaneously telling a larger story.  He’d often devote a page in each story to Batman dealing with petty crime.  Either in the midst of stopping a mugging when the Bat-signal went off or pausing briefly to scare off some burglars while on the way to a crime scene. Grant understood that this was an integral part of Batman.  In fact, many of Grant’s stories simply  involved Batman out on his nightly patrol and the atrocities he encountered in the process.  I much prefer Batman when he is depicted in this preemptive manner rather than a reactionary one.

Personal Achievement:

b3.1

  • To whom it may concern, I have been with Batman-News for 2 years, and this marks my 200th article for the site.

Recommended if…

  • You want to know the secret origin of Gotham and Gotham Girl.

Overall:

Tom King continues to deliver a strong story arc filled with plenty of quintessential Batmaning.  We get street level vigilantism, the implementation of disguises for undercover work, and even the Bat-Cycle makes a grand appearance.  The story itself is also quite impressive.  Through the origin of G&GG, King makes you want to root for a duo that mere issues ago you were probably skeptical toward.  While King may be using some concepts that have been touched on before, he’s giving it a fresh feel that will appeal to new readers and old alike.  It’s almost cruel that this issue spends so much time getting you attached to this new pair of characters, because it’s almost certain that a tragic end is just around the next corner.

SCORE: 8.5 / 10